In May 2005, Dave Morrow <firstname.lastname@example.org> circulated (via the Miller E-mail list), this note about his traffic ideas::
I propose changing 23rd Ave from 4 lanes to 3 lanes, with 5' wide bike lanes on each side. The center lane serves as a two way left turn lane. At major intersections a dedicated left turn lane would be added, or signalized intersections could be converted to modern roundabouts where adequate room exists. Roundabouts can handle between 30% to 50% more traffic volume at peak conditions, so existing bottlenecks (e.g. Union St.) could be remedied. Roundabouts also reduce injury accidents by about 60% compared to signalized intersections. Adding bike lanes to 23rd Ave could help everyone in the area. This improvement would be applied to the 4 lane section of 23rd Ave from approximately Cherry Street to the Montlake cut. Please read the following and click on the links for more information.
Many commuter cyclists ride on 23rd Avenue between the Central District and the University of Washington and points north. A bike lane in each direction could both benefit existint cyclists and new riders, but also the hundreds of people living on this street. It could also significantly help transit efficiency. Please see the results of this recent study for a similar action on a busy street in NYC:
Changing 23rd Ave from 4 lanes to 3 lanes and adding bike lanes on the shoulders would help improve safety and efficiency for all corridor users, including pedestrians. Here is a concisely stated set of reasons - be sure to read all the way down.
He supplied the following compilation of neighbors' replies (with his comments):
I have collected a series of emails sent to me, and my
response. I omitted last names for privacy reasons.
I became interested in the issue of congestion on 23rd at a community meeting when residents of parallel routes (22nd) reported speeding cut-through traffic. The reason people were cutting through neighborhood streets is to avoid congestion on 23rd. The obvious solution to me is to fix 23rd so that drivers would not be enticed to use 22nd as a cut-through that threatens the safety of residents, including pets and children. I,d like to state a couple of issues for people to consider about existing conditions on the 23rd Ave. Corridor.
Local streets provide mobility primarily for the people residing in the area or those providing them services (e.g., delivery services). Driver surveys show that people tend to take the same routes to work, school, shopping, etc. Roughly 40% of all trips people take are 2 miles or less. My premise is that the 23rd corridor should serve travel by local residents first. Travel options should include walking, biking, transit, and private auto.
Corridors such as 23rd are important for emergency responders. Vehicle congestion impedes emergency vehicles and may actually cost lives.
There are about 1,000 new housing units proposed for the area, and if we don,t plan for improving all modes of travel now, we will see more frustrated drivers, more cut-through traffic, worse localized pollution due to excessive idling, and a general degradation of travel options for existing residents.
The main sections of 23rd have plenty of capacity to carry existing traffic. Peak-hour congestion is now occurring at INTERSECTIONS (or behind them when the lights can,t let through enough vehicles). Assuming that the existing stoplights are currently optimized by SDOT, the fix for intersections is to add capacity. Modern roundabouts can handle between 30% and 50% more vehicles at peak hour than a traffic light, so they can provide needed capacity while reducing injury accidents. The center of modern roundabouts are often landscaped or beautified with sculptures so they actually improve the neighborhood pride and property values.
The Capitol Hill/Central District area does NOT currently have any modern roundabouts we have mini-traffic islands. Replacing existing traffic signals with modern roundabouts will require a bit of driver education. Presumably, if someone is driving right now they are intelligent enough to learn to merge into a roundabout the skill is the same as merging onto the freeway- only at about 15 mph.
Reducing 4-lane sections of 23rd to 3 lanes and adding bike lanes can improve safety and efficiency of the roadway. Throughout the US, residents and emergency responders alike are meeting similar changes with good acceptance and approval.
Finally, better transit service will be key to keeping our city moving. Every transit passenger starts and finishes their trip by walking (or perhaps using a wheelchair). Therefore, to make transit service viable and an attractive option to driving, we need to improve sidewalks and pedestrian safety.
I am sorry to be dense, but what would happen when a bus would stop for passengers? Would it hold up the cars? If so, it might be considered a problem, at least for the folks concerned about auto traffic. Another option might be to have 4 lanes, but the two outer lanes be a shared bus/bike lane. If you would rather discuss this live, just call me.
Much of 23rd is actually a four-lane now and the buses do block the right lane completely when they stop - there are no dedicated pullouts. What this means is that either:
1. Cars see the bus and shift into the left lane, effectively creating a one-lane route with no dedicated left turn lane. If one car needs to turn left, it stops in the only existing travel lane, effectively stopping all traffic until either: the bus starts again, or, the car safely makes its left turn.
2. Cars in the right lane have to stop and queue behind the bus when it stops, blocking the right lane, which means diminished average speed, longer travel time, and possible frustration (that can lead to irrational driving behavior).
3. Cars see the bus ahead in the right lane and start shifting into the left lane, causing the existing traffic in the left lane to accordion vehicles slow and speed up depending upon the entering traffic. This behavior often leads to fender benders.
With a four-to-five foot wide bike lane and center Two-Way-Left-Turn-Lane (TWLTL), the bus could pull over next to the curb and cars could maneuver around it with little slowing. They may have to move a little into the center TWLTL.
On much of the existing section of 4-lane 23rd, the lanes are at the absolute minimum (around 9 or 10 feet I believe) and there is no room for either bike lanes or bus pullouts. Thus, a three-lane route with bike lanes could provide better safety and mobility, at least on these segments of 23rd.
Any engineering studies will have to consider the entire corridor from at least Cherry in the south north to the University - this will be a complex problem but not insurmountable.
Hope this helps,
I've lived off 23rd (25th & Spring) for the last 8 years - I'm also a pedestrian activist, and president of the board of Feet First (www.feetfirst.info). And I grew up here. Just some background on me.
You are 100% right about growth plans, and the City and Metro and Sound Transit and the County are all looking at the same issues you're examining. So it's always interesting to hear another viewpoint.
A former Feet First member, Tom Bertullis (now doing bicycle work for Scotland) is a *huge* roundabouts fan. I'm going to forward him your ideas to see what he thinks. He did engineering for the County for a few years too and has his PE. I think roundabouts are really cool for lots of reasons - not the least of which is when done right they are far more pedestrian-friendly than many signalized intersections. We have been advocating for one for some years now at a 5-way intersection on Boyer, which connects 24th to the University Bridge. So far no love, but we keep trying.
I can predict that one of the first SDOT replies to your proposal will be the presence of a bike route on 24th/25th, particularly through Montlake. They'll argue we should improve that route rather than taking 'drastic action' on 23rd.
And honestly if it were up to me I'd make Denny between 23rd & 24th a cul-de-sac. Even at non-peak hours the ability to make that turn off 23rd has always struck me as dangerous, and I've seen at least two accidents at that intersection.
Have you talked to anyone at SDOT about this yet? 23rd carries
nearly 20,000 vehicular trips a day north of Cherry - see http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/images/03tfdgrid4.jpg
- and I'm having a hard time seeing the City get on board with
I've also seen a couple modern roundabout installations, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find the real estate to put them in at Madison, with its odd geometry, or even at Union, unless you can sell the City on a 4-lane to 2-lane reduction. I suspect that Metro won't be thrilled with the idea either, as the #43 and #48 are routinely late and this would probably only increase the severity of that problem.
The NYC article you cited intrigued me. I don't know lower Manhattan all that well, but wonder if there's more of a grid possibility there - the issue with 23rd is that it's the only north/south route east of 10th that actually connects the Ship Canal all the way south to the CD. Nothing else does that.
I wonder if it might make more sense to add your voice to the effort to get a Madison Park ped/bike connector to the 520-bridge replacement project. If the goal is to make biking to/from the U and the Burke-Gilman easier, I'm just not convinced that 23rd is the corridor of choice.
We also have a member who's a Metro planner, and I'll seek his professional input (rather than my amateur bus-riding experience) as well.
In any case, welcome to the neighborhood :) and please keep
in touch. We work with a lot of people at SDOT and would be happy
to help make some connections.
I am new to the area, and have learned transportation planning
working in air quality in California. I have been looking at
the growth plans for our area and see a lot more travelers moving
here. IMHO we need to do the planning now so that transit and
other modes are desirable and effective.
According to standard traffic planning handbooks, 23rd has capacity to carry a lot more traffic than 20,000 vehicles per day. The key factor to look at is 'per hour' use. I live on 23rd, and can go out there at certain hours - even daylight hours - and stand in the street safely for probably 30 seconds at a time - no traffic. Commute times its jammed, with cars racing from red light to red light. The current congestion at stoplight-controlled intersections is what is probably causing the buses to be late. That is what I'd like to look at and see if we can fix. Because roundabouts can handle about 30% to 50% more vehicles/hour than many traffic light controlled signals the buses would probably have better schedule reliability. Right now they are getting stuck in traffic at stoplight-controlled intersections.
I agree, installing modern roundabouts at some of the intersections
on 23rd is a challenging task, and although I have played with
the design software, I am not the guy for this job. There are
engineers in this country who are getting pretty good at it, and
I know one Australian (working in FLA) who has designed over 200
modern roundabouts. Roundabouts have been used in very difficult
situations - and if you do it right it,s wonderful. A poorly designed
roundabout is frustrating and must be fixed.
To build a roundabout at Madison right now might require re-doing the sidewalks and intersection approaches. Thankfully there is not a lot of hardscape/buildings at every corner. The intersection of Denny/23rd might need to be made a one-way - maybe not - have to study it. The light at John/23rd might go away or turn into a roundabout. Lots of things on the corridor will have to be coordinated.
Thankfully, there is some very good modeling software available now that can look at the entire area and work towards the optimal design. The trick will be to get SDOT to adopt this as a project and start doing some studies. Then will be finding $$. To do it right will cost some serious dollars, but maybe it can be coordinated with a paving project. In the long haul, getting rid of the stoplights may save the city a lot of money, and it could certainly save lives and trips to the hospital.
There are many good reasons to make most of 23rd a 3 lane route
that includes TWLTL and bike lanes:
Improved resident access to driveways
Better transit stops
Improved safety for broken-down vehicles
Better direct access for bike commuters to the U District
Less cut-through traffic in neighborhoods
Fewer injury accidents
Shorter driving times (less fuel consumption + emissions)
Key to this all is *really good* design of the modern roundabouts at key intersections. If this is screwed up by someone who does not have his or her chops the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket. And you can quote me on that.
Now, how to get a study of this corridor on the SDOT work plan?
I think this is an EXCELLENT idea. At various times in my Cap Hill residency, I've been a commuter on 23rd and this would be a real help. I've usually gone down 23rd to Montlake and up Interlaken to 19th, but up 23rd would be really great.
Concerns? The bottleneck at the bottom of the hill during commuter hours at the 520 Montlake ramp. It's pretty bad - will this make it worse? > One challenge with the street is being sure it works with buses. So I > hope we can be in touch about your ideas.
Good luck. I'm an obsessive letter writer; let me know if I can help you contact the City on this.
Thanks for your support. Changes are scary to a lot of folks, but hey, with the focus on more urban development to protect outlying areas, we better get real about planning for more travelers. I think we should try to make the corridor better for all types of travelers, not just single occupant vehicles (which I am sometimes). The intersection of 520/Montlake can probably be fixed with a series of modern roundabouts. The local engineers will need some help to do the design but it,s just a matter of educating folks and developing the political will. Engineers in Vail, CO, built a series of 9 roundabouts that did a remarkable job of fixing a huge bottleneck.
Check this out for all the dope on modern roundabouts: http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/ <http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/> .
I'm hoping that my ideas should make bus travel more reliable because the intersections will work better (less delay at peak hour). We will definitely need to gather all our resources to get SDOT to adopt a corridor study as part of their work program.
Thank you for your efforts to improve 23rd Ave. E I live on 23rd. My main concern on 23rd ave E is the speed of traffic. This makes it difficult biking and walking. Also I often see drivers run the light at E. Republican st and 23rd ave E.
We cycle in our household and I much prefer to parallel on 24th ave E. The exhaust seems worse then ever - maybe their has been an increase in traffic. I notice many cyclists ride up 24th E and then cut up E. Harrison street. Maybe cyclists would be safer and healthier if a parallel route were clearly marked and freshly paved. 24th has major potholes.
There are several reasons people speed in this corridor. Among them:
The street is wide and straight with few visual cues about human beings present, so drivers tend to gun it. Engineers sometimes refer to streets like this as "air craft landing strips. Long straight un-impeded travel lanes are appropriate for freeways but not neighborhoods, as you have noted.
Traffic lights are easily run, with sometimes-tragic result. Generally, a modern roundabout has about 60% less injury accidents than a similar intersection controlled by a signal. You can,t run a roundabout!
There is no reason not to fix the pavement on 24th as well as make 23rd safer. The two projects are both reasonable and probably necessary.
As a person who lives on 23rd, I think the general idea is great. However, I would be very surprised if it ever happened. There are many buses along this route; would each stop of a bus halt the traffic in that direction?
I don't think that traffic circles would be good on 23rd, however.
Every new idea has a genesis and something like this will have to be talked about and lobbied for - it may take a few years. Stopping buses generally pull into the bike lane (carefully) and then overtaking cars use the center lane to (carefully) go around. Most of the congestion on 23rd is at the intersections. I am not proposing traffic circles at major intersections - I am proposing modern roundabouts. The difference between a traffic circle and a modern roundabout is as great as between a stop sign and a traffic light. Check this out for lots of information on modern roundabouts: http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/ <http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/>
I am in favor of reducing traffic lanes on 23rd. I think your idea sounds wonderful.
I live at 16XX 22nd. Avenue.
Thanks for your support -this will need a lot of careful engineering study to make it work but I think it has possibilities. I have been getting a lot of email and will try to summarize them all and give them to Andrew to post so folks can see the debate.
I'm a bike commuter and live near 23rd and Cherry.
What I'd really like is to see the city repave the existing bike route that goes north from the CD to Montlake: 27th, 26th, and 25th Avenues. This is a good and efficient bike route (side streets) where bikes can go at their own pace, and where the hill up from Montlake (southbound) is not nearly as high as that on 23rd/24th Avenues which peak at Aloha. The only problem with this side-street route is the poor pavement condition.
I belong to an organization at Sandpoint and I often drive up there after work via 23rd Ave., through Montlake. Delays due to traffic bottlenecks on 23rd Ave at Cherry, Union, Madison, John, etc would be a serious problem for me. How do you, in your proposal to reduce the car lanes, propose that car traffic that is "reduced" off of 23rd Ave. should get to points north? MLK Way does not address this need of car drivers, although MLK Way is currently a good alternative for bicycles as it parallels the side streets I mentioned.
Another question - how realistic is it to think the city would ever replace the signals at the big intersections with large roundabouts?
I like bike lanes and bike routes in general, but I don't think this one sounds like a good idea. Better to enhance the quality of the existing, less steep, side street route we already have.
Thank you for sharing your proposal.
Thanks for the email. Repaving is a good idea - potholes can certainly cause a bike to crash. I don't know if you looked at the document I cited about why bike lanes are good for everyone, but they tend to serve many useful purposes. Reducing the number of lanes on a street like 23rd does not necessarily reduce road capacity. The Two-way-left-turn-lane (TWLTL) provides a lot of surety that someone stopping in the left lane to turn into a driveway (e.g. Safeway) will not impede drivers in forward progress. Also, bike lanes give the buses somewhere to pull off so that they don't completely block the right lane.
Modern Roundabouts can move anywhere from 30% to 50% more autos through an intersection than a signal in a given period. Injury accidents are typically reduced by about 60% in a modern roundabout compared to a signal (drunks can't speed through a roundabout). If one looks at the overall cost of emergency responders to visit accident scenes, the cost of hospitalization for people with no insurance (borne by the public) etc. you can see that roundabouts can make sense. They are not the solution in every single case, but they can help if done properly. The big thing I see is that US engineers are not yet up to speed, but we are getting there quickly. In Seattle I am not aware of any modern roundabouts. We have a lot of traffic circles, but those are not the same - apples and oranges.
Also, to address your idea, why not improve both side street pavement for bike use and the throughway of 23rd? Improvements on 23rd will reduce auto and bus congestion and side street improvement can make riding in the hoods more fun. The two improvements are not mutually exclusive.
At our meetings with the Mayor, and with the director of Seattle Department of Transportation (S-DOT) we have expressed two different traffic-related concerns:
The good news is that S-DOT had scoping meetings with us, and has issued a report on many of the "spot issues", suggesting solutions and ways to proceed.
Please read their report and use the web-forms provided to give them your feedback and suggestions on their ideas. The next step will be "a meeting later in the month, say February 20th: an Open House format with each of our topics assigned an area in the meeting room with appropriate visual displays and staff to conduct small group discussion. You might also invite DCLU to describe their approaches to determining possible growth-related traffic impacts. We could repeat the Open House at Mount Zion in early March."
The bad news is that they have been unable to address the "big picture" issues at all. Let's remind the Director of S-DOT, City Council and the Mayor of the importance of this long term view: it'll be much easier and cheaper to fix the mess before it happens.
In 1999-2000 the neighborhood discussed transportation challenges, mainly in the area immediately around the Community Center and the restaurants on 19th. We investigated a Residential Parking Zone, but neighbors were divided and it didn't happen.
April 2002: The redevelopment of East Madison Street is starting to happen. Concerned about the traffic impacts of all that development, we invited Grace Crunican, new Director of the City Transportation Department to help us decide how to minimize those effects on our neighborhood.
Here's the background letter (and Map1 and Map3 and a map showing all the new housing ) about the neighborhood that we sent her before the meeting. And here's the belated "thank you letter" that I sent to Ms. Crunican. The letter includes details of several new traffic concerns that have come up since we met with her.
Summary of our main concerns:
July 2002: We WILL be getting a transportation study of our neighborhood, conducted by a Seattle Transportation planner. We had a "scoping meeting" on Jult 24th to decide what the planner needs to work on.
Transportation committee formed after the December 1999 Neighborhood Association meeting. Our "convener" is Doug Hobkirk. Here are some notes from that meeting, in which we decided what issues to work on. E-mail Andrew to be added to the Committee list, or just TURN UP at the next meeting.
1) Fast traffic along 19th Ave. E.
2) dangerous junction at 19th & Republican (several accidents)
3) parking impacts of Kingfish and Monsoon restaurants
4) wrong-way traffic on 1-way part of 21st Ave. E.
5) parking impacts from school staff on residents of 21st Ave. E.
To address #4 and #5, I wrote letters to the local Postmaster and to the Principal of Meany School. No replies yet.
To address # 3 and #5 (and "commuter park and ride" in our neighborhood) we are considering a Residential Parking Zone. Details available from Seatran: Julie Erickson <Julie.Erickson@ci.seattle.wa.us> . After Seatran has studied our proposals (to see if they are eligible for an RPZ) we and they will hold a public meeting to explain the procedure. Here's a map showing the streets we propose to try and include in the Residential Parking Zone. Please note that an RPZ is never "forced" upon a neighborhood: 60% of the households on a block have to sign up for that block to be included in the RPZ.
On #1: A report from the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Service Center:
"I have spoken with Sgt. Kuehn regarding the traffic situation here on 19th avenue East. Last fall an officer was sent to check the speed of the motorists along 19th. It was found that motorists were not speeding. The officer felt that the narrow street and the cars parked on both sides added to the sense that they were speeding. Upon using the radar gun, he found that they were not speeding.
However, the file is not closed. The Police Department is continuing to send out patrols to the area to check for speeders. If you have any further questions please contact me by telephone at 684-4574.
Lori Kohagen, Office Assistant".
I sent a similar letter to Kingfish, but have received no reply.
A LARGE number of neighbors came to the Community Center to discuss the Residential Parking Zone proposal.
Julie Erickson of Seatran described the RPZ and the application process, and answered many questions. Many were in favor of the RPZ, but many were concerned about the effects it would have on others: no clear consensus emerged, and (despite my pleas) nobody volunteered to supervise the RPZ effort. Nonetheless, many people picked up the RPZ petitions as they left: we'll see what transpires.
Liz Swift, Principal of Holy Names Academy, described efforts
they had already undertaken to minimize the school's effect on
parking, and handed out a letter
describing their efforts to help the parking problem.
Holy Names hosted another meeting on October 23rd, which was attended principally by their immediate neighbors. Principal Swift described their innovative attempts to regulate the on-street parking of their pupil's cars. They are continuing to try and be "good neighbors": if you experience a parking issue around the school, please report it to their receptionist (323-4272).
Ms. Swift would also be interested in your suggestions for improvement to, or observations on, their parking monitoring: please phone (720-7819) or E-mail her
The City's Strategic Planning Office, after visiting us in September, suggested that we consider an "integrated transportation plan"
We applied for City funds for two sets of curb bulbs:
a) on 19th Ave E. at E. Republican (to address #1): here's the application (in PDF or HTM format).
b) on 21st Ave. E. at E. John (to address #4): here's the application
(in PDF or HTM
Seatran reported on the feasibility of the submitted projects and then our District Council chose and prioritized the 10 most attractive projects in our district. In August the City Budget Office and Department of Neighborhoods decided which projects got funded: the successful projects were announced in September as part of the Mayor's 2001-2002 budget.
Suggestion a) was ranked fairly high by the East District Council but unfortunately wasn't selected for funding by the City: we applied again this year.
Seattle Times article (3/19/00) on "traffic calming", traffic circles and speed bumps.
Seattle Times article (4/28/00) describing computer problems that prevent tracking accident reports: we'll have to keep our own data to convince the City that our intersections are hazardous.
Seattle Times article (11/28/00): "Transportation poll sends mixed signal"